Jaco Visser’s Nkwe Safaris (nkwe is ‘leopard’ in the Setswana language) is co-owned by Jaco and his cousin, Wiehad van der Merwe. Wiehad is the owner of the family concessions, while Jaco is the PH and outfitter who conducts the hunts. It was my absolute pleasure to be hosted by Jaco for a hunt of eight days after booking with Matthew Egan. I bought a package of six animals (kudu, eland, blue wildebeest, impala, steenbok, warthog) and added two days for an additional four animals (red hartebeest, waterbuck, gemsbok, springbok).
Jaco, 40, has been a PH for 21 years, with the last three hunting his own concessions – four are family holdings with two additional concessions where he has the exclusive hunting rights – totalling 80 000 acres of free-ranging habitat for animals native to the Kalahari. The concessions in the Kalahari are in north Botswana outside the town of Ghanzi, and the vegetation is northern bushveld. It is a three-hour drive from Maun. To the south is the sand desert that most of us associate with the Kalahari. Some of Jaco’s family land was not hunted until three years ago and the animal populations are remarkable – so much so that for some species, such as eland, a second animal can be offered to the hunter at half price! (More about this later.) And the trophy quality (and quantity) is amazing for free-ranging animals.
Accompanying Jaco and me on the hunt were Ampie (a 21-year-old first-year apprentice PH) and two Bushmen: Tex, the tracker (this guy can track a fish through water) and Danco, the driver. Also of note was the cook, Godfried, from Zimbabwe, whose meals are 5-star! As noted in the title, Douglas Jardine’s .450-400 3-inch Harrison and Hussey box lock ejector was my rifle of choice, topped with a Swarovski 1.25-4x telescopic sight with claw mounts.
The first day of the hunt consisted of a drive, seeing much of the land, with short walks to get close to a potential trophy. The early morning temperatures hover around 0°C, with day-time highs hitting 33°C after the noon hour. Animals seen on the first day were giraffe, kudu, blue wildebeest, red hartebeest, eland, warthog, steenbok, duiker, zebra, gemsbok, jackal, cheetah and impala. Later in the day we spotted a good warthog coming to drink, and he was felled with one shot from the .450-400 at 68 yards. (Since I use only double rifles, a range finder is not necessary but the Leica Geovid 10×42 is fun to use with the range-finder option.)
The second day was when the fun began. We were out at 07h00 to look for eland tracks, which we crossed about 45 minutes later, and we were off for a walk. After 90 minutes of tracking, we were getting close. When close to an animal, I do three things: I never use my binocs as I may lose precious seconds putting them away and may miss a quick shot; I take the rifle off of my shoulder and perhaps remove the sling if time allows; and I also never look for the animal. It’s my PH’s job to do that. Rather, I look only at where I am stepping, making sure I step in the PH’s footprints for absolute silence.
After Jaco had set up the sticks, I settled the rifle on them and slid the automatic safety to off. Jaco was sighting on an eland bull with his Swarovski 10x30s and I did the same through my ‘scope. Just as I was ready to fire, the bull, which was side-on to us, turned away with his head down to graze. He was an excellent bull and Jaco said: “Hit ‘em in the ass.” I sighted on the bull’s left hip and fired. He took off but when we arrived at the spot, 60 yards away, there was blood and the eland was dragging his leg. With his hip broken, he was only able to move a few yards before coming to a stop. A second shot in the shoulder brought him down. What a bull! 37–38″, about 6 years old – a young but fully mature bull.